When it comes to college applications or simply applications in general, many African Americans and Hispanics are already up on the “I choose not to disclose” game when it comes to identifying race out of fear of being discriminated against, but now it seems many Asian students are having to go this route as well. Many students of Asian descent from one or both parents, whose last names don’t give away their heritage, have found that when it comes to gaining acceptance into America’s top schools like Harvard and Yale, there is only one boxed to be checked for race: white.

According to an article by the Associated Press:

For years, many Asian-Americans have been convinced that it’s harder for them to gain admission to the nation’s top colleges.

Studies show that Asian-Americans meet these colleges’ admissions standards far out of proportion to their 6 percent representation in the U.S. population, and that they often need test scores hundreds of points higher than applicants from other ethnic groups to have an equal chance of admission. Critics say these numbers, along with the fact that some top colleges with race-blind admissions have double the Asian percentage of Ivy League schools, prove the existence of discrimination.

The way it works, the critics believe, is that Asian-Americans are evaluated not as individuals, but against the thousands of other ultra-achieving Asians who are stereotyped as boring academic robots.

Now, an unknown number of students are responding to this concern by declining to identify themselves as Asian on their applications.

While many students say that they are comfortable with their choice to essentially deny a part or all of who they are, a choice supported by their parents, other students aren’t as comfortable with the decision. The AP spoke with Jodi Balfe, a Harvard freshman who was born in Korea and came here at age 3 with her Korean mother and white American father, and against the advice of her high school guidance counselor, teachers and friends declared herself Asian on her college application. For Balfe the choice was easy, “I felt very uncomfortable with the idea of trying to hide half of my ethnic background. It’s been a major influence on how I developed as a person. It felt like selling out, like selling too much of my soul. I thought admission wouldn’t be worth it. It would be like only half of me was accepted.”

Have you ever had to deny your race? What are your thoughts on denying your race when applying to schools or jobs?

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43 Comments

  1. whilome

    My kid is half-Asian and she already knows to put “black” or “multi-ethnic” on her apps. Discrimination against the “model minority” is well known in academic community.

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  2. I’m part asian and I did not deny my heritage. For the applications that asked for my race I checked both the Black and Asian boxes or I checked other and put black and asian.

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  3. Perverted Alchemist

    A lot of Asians are going to great lengths to deny their heritage, and academia is just at the bottom of the list (See: plastic surgery).

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    • whilome

      I think you are conflating two topics. Getting surgery to change the epicanthic fold is a misguided trend by a select few Asian women. Making sure that an Ivy league school doesn’t compare you to the other 4.0/36ontheACTs Asian person is more about self-advocacy.

      The only way the “hide that I’m Asian” trick even works is if the person has a Anglicized name. My blackanese child will still walk into a university with her “Lucy Liu with an afro” self.

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    • Perverted Alchemist

      Sure, but does self- advocacy work for them in the long run when in the end, they are still going to be seen as “just another Asian” in the public’s eye?

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    • isolde

      “Sure, but does self- advocacy work for them in the long run when in the end, they are still going to be seen as “just another Asian” in the public’s eye?”

      @PA

      whilome is right. you’re conflating issues. It’s not that most of these HAPA’s with the non-Asian surnames, that can get away with this, are “ashamed” of being Asian. Most of these kids proudly fly the “I’m Asian” flag once they get into school. They’re doing this because they know that competition is fierce, and they’re using their privilege to game the system.

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  4. Chica

    You know this whole “whoa is me I’m Asian and can’t get into college” thing really annoys me. The thing is, colleges just aren’t looking for the people with perfect SAT scores. They want people who are well rounded individuals. I can’t stand that people think because I’m black, I have a better chance of getting into Ivies. The Asian valedictorian may have a 2400 on the SAT, but I have a 2070 as WELL as playing tennis, being in Varsity Band, and heading a host of clubs. The ability to take a test shouldn’t be the only way of defining a student’s intelligence. I know intelligent kids of ALL races who only focused on high test scores but failed to participate in several extracurriculars, and subsequently didn’t get into the college of their choice. Truth is none of us know exactly what a college wants. The highest test score =/= the most qualified applicant.
    ~Salam

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    • As a minority currently in an Ivy League school, I am no stranger to these discussions. There are also many white students who also feel that self-identifying is a threat to their application *side eye*. What astonishes me is that a lot of these kids have a sense of entitlement when it comes to acceptances in top-ranked universities. “I went to private school XYZ and made a 2400 on my SAT so therefore I’m the most qualified applicant.” What these students fail to realize is that colleges want well rounded students and they want students who are passionate about the university. I didn’t have the “perfect” scores but I damn sure knew everything there was to know about my school and that showed on my application. Students need to realize that schools want well rounded and unique students and stop feeling entitled to an acceptance because of test scores (which are biased to begin with).

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    • Timcampi

      Wow, you both did NOT read the article did you?

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    • Kaydee-P

      I once thought this as well but I thought again. The key point in this article is that many Asian students are being judged not individually, but on the “Asian = Whiz Kid” scale. So if I were Korean and sent in my app, admissions sees my race before anything else- so even if I were a well rounded student, it doesn’t matter. Not to mention- at least within the stereotype- Asians aren’t only smart, but they’ve been playing the violin, piano, and clarinet while learning Russian and French since potty training. So well rounded-ness,
      arguably, isn’t a question either.

      However, when Asians as a whole are denied admission, that also excludes many students of Asian nationalities that are hardly recognized as it is. So for some, this type of scoring hurts twice as much.

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    • Chica

      @Timcampi
      Um I actually read both clutch’s article and the one on huffingtonpost so I’ll just ignore that misplaced comment. I’m perfectly find with you disaeeinggr with me. I was simply sharing my opinions and experiences.
      *Note* Asians have the highest college attendance rate in the US soooo I think they’ll be just fine.

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    • isolde

      “I can’t stand that people think because I’m black, I have a better chance of getting into Ivies.”
      ____________________________________________________________________

      @chica

      Statistically, you would face less competition, than an Asian student, if your standardized test scores were at a certain level.
      ___________________________________________________________________

      “The Asian valedictorian may have a 2400 on the SAT, but I have a 2070 as WELL as playing tennis, being in Varsity Band, and heading a host of clubs.”
      _________________________________________________________________

      And what makes you think that the Asian valedictorian doesn’t have a laundry list of extra-curriculars as well? The ones applying for admission to selective colleges usually have sky high test scores AND awards and extra-curriculars.

      Here, watch this.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cghj-myPGls

      It’s a documentary about a bunch of Asian kids applying to Ivies. Two of the students go to Hunter College High School in New York. Another of the students in the doc has high SAT II’s but low SAT I’s for an Asian female applicant. She also has a bunch of extra curricular activities on her transcript. Another of the students is an athlete. Only one fit your stereotypical description of an Asian student who did little else but study.

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    • @Chica, who said: “colleges just aren’t looking for the people with perfect SAT scores. They want people who are well rounded individuals.” Yeah, because all (hell, even half) the white kids I taught in my majority white classrooms at my university are “well-rounded individuals.” I respect your opinion, but you seem unwilling to acknowledge the plain reality: most universities’ (especially those like Harvard and Yale) have ridiculously racist admissions systems and administrators. Just more institutionalized racism at play. I’m just glad these Asian kids are not blind to it.

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  5. jamesfrmphilly

    build enough classrooms so that every student can have a seat.
    free public education for as far as you can do the course work.

    but what do i know, i’m a socialist.

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    • I agree with you. Free public university education like the German system. But that’s too much like right in this country.

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